Today is Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means mandate or command. On Thursday night before his Friday crucifixion during his final meal with the disciples, Jesus gave them a new mandate, a “new commandment,” to love as he had loved them (John 17:31-35).
Sometime after the meal and this newly given command, Jesus prays something profound for his disciples. Like the rest of the prayer, he says it is meant for future disciples as well: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23).
Jesus says the remarkable and unthinkable: he has glorified us with the glory God gave him. He tells us why he has done this: so that we may be one just as the Father and Son are one. Then he tells us what the purpose of this oneness is: so that the world will know the Father sent the Son, and that the Son loved his church with the love of the Father. This is stunning.
Why does Jesus say all this? Jesus prays this so that the Christian community will be a living testimony to the Trinitarian nature of God. Though God is Father, Son, and Spirit, he is yet one. In the same way, though the church is many (i.e. made up of different individuals, personalities, nations, ethnicities, ages, denominations, etc.) she is yet one. One how? One in the fact that they have the same Lord, same faith, same baptism, even the same Father (Eph. 4:5-6). This separates Christianity from other religions or belief systems. Christianity has a common confession, yet many cultural expressions. Because God is a diverse unity of persons, Christianity can reject blanket uniformity while maintaining unity.
But the purpose of this oneness, as Jesus says, is not an end in itself. Oneness exists to deflect glory and honor back to God. Oneness will show the world that the Father sent the Son and that the Son loved his own as the Father loved him. In other words, the church is also a living testimony of the Trinitarian love of God. How? Just as Jesus submits to the Father and the Members defer to and glorify each other (John 16:14; 17:1, 4), so Christians serve, defer to, and glorify (i.e. make much of) each other. This is love, and love is God’s very essence (1 John 4:8). The church then reflects this–a community of persons who are self-giving lovers.
Do we reflect this Trinitarian God perfectly? Of course not, so we are not welcomed in by birth or religious activity or our moral effort. Even as a Christian, struggle to serve and defer to others. I struggle to love Christians who are different than me. If we do not reflect this God perfectly, then we do not deserve him. We have spit on his love rather than bask in it. You may be saying, “This sounds so good though! I want to know a God who gives love and defers and shares. The gods I serve only steal from me. How can we be welcomed by this God and enter this community?”
Just hours after his prayer, on Friday, on a hill called Golgotha, on a Roman cross, the Son was cast away. The Father removed his loving gaze from the Son and poured his wrath on him–the wrath you and I deserved as enemies of the Trinitarian God. The simple yet mind-boggling truth is that Jesus was cut off so you and I would be brought in. The Father did this so that all who trust in the Son’s finished work on the cross–not their own works–would be given the Spirit in order to be brought into this community as a true child and share in this eternal love.
We marvel. We wonder. We praise. We tremble. We sing,
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
This wondrous love could only be Trinitarian love. O what love it is!